Build upper body mass with this four-move beginner barbell workout

Target your shoulders, back and biceps with the humble barbell

man doing barbell exercises
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Barbells aren’t just a great way to switch up your usual dumbbell workout, but they’re also excellent for building muscle, boosting strength and athletic performance. They’re a popular choice for upper body exercises, but if you’ve never used one before, knowing where to start and what to do can feel daunting, especially as there’s so many exercises. This four-move upper body workout is perfect for beginners though who are looking to build muscle and make some strength gains.

Research even shows that just two barbell sessions a week can boost lean muscle mass in as little as four weeks. Also, despite being a lot larger and heavier than (some) dumbbells, barbells can be easier for some people to use. This is because your range of motion is slightly more restricted with a barbell (as opposed to a pair of dumbbells), which also often means you can work with more weight. Plus, they can be set up in a squat rack, giving you that extra safety element. 

For this workout you've got four barbell exercises to get you started, targeting your shoulders, arms and back. This workout is completed as a circuit, where you do the exercises back to back with no rest in between, so it'll leave you with an excellent pump. Complete eight reps of each exercise, back to back, then rest for 90 seconds and repeat the workout two more times. If you want to add some weight plates to make it more challenging – go for it – but if this is your first time using a barbell, start with this first to get used to each movement. Here's your workout:

  • Shoulder press
  • Upright rows
  • Shoulder shrugs
  • Bicep curls

Keen for more barbell workouts? Here's another barbell upper body workout for you to try next. It's only got three exercises, but it's a little more advanced than the workout above. If you find yourself pushed for time during the week though, then why not try this full-body barbell workout? It's great for sculpting your entire physique and there's only five exercises to work through. 

Bryony Firth-Bernard
Staff Writer, Active

Bryony’s T3’s official ‘gym-bunny’ and Active Staff Writer, covering all things fitness. In her spare time, you will find her in her natural habitat - the gym - where her style of training is a hybrid of bodybuilding and powerlifting. Bryony loves writing about accessible workouts, nutrition and testing innovative fitness products that help you reach your fitness goals and take your training to the next level.